Why it’s Important to Read to Children and It doesn’t Matter what you Read to Them.
Well, to a point. I wouldn’t recommend Stephen King’s It before bed.
Reading is important, especially to children, and there are millions of children’s books out there. Everybody knows that. It is a basic skill that allows human communication, learning, entertainment, creation, etc, etc. But the initial benefit is probably much more primal and immediate than that.
Whether you choose to have story time during the day or only at bedtime, sitting with your child to share a story fulfills a basic need of human contact and bonding with your parent. It is very unlikely that your children will sit and listen so attentively to anything you say at any other time. For a story, however, they will sit and listen, and look at the pictures if there are any. They’ll find shapes and clues in the pictures and, as they get older, ask you where you’re reading so they can try to follow the text.
A bedtime story will also help them wind down for the night and get ready to go to sleep.
The World Around Them
The world can be overwhelming for a little person. Children’s books, or some of them, tend to touch on a variety of subjects and if you scan the web you will find suggestions for the best books for kids with anxiety, the best books about animals, the best books about grief. Stories help children make sense of the world they live in and the things that happen to them. It is worth to spend some time to decide which books you want to read to your children at any given time.
It is also worth creating a wish list and letting your friends and family see it, otherwise you might find yourself with a pile of fifty books, all about going to sleep. There is that many of those I can read, and that’s why I decided to write my own children books and with a message better than ‘go to sleep when mummy says so’.
Having written two children’s books of my own, one of the first things you think about is language. You want children to understand the story, right? So using words like ‘superfluous’ and ‘malignant’ might not be the best option. It’s easy to think that children require a special language, but that’s not necessarily true.
My dad use to tell me how my aunt would read anything to my cousins. Mostly the newspapers. And why not? Children have an immense ability to absorb information and while I doubt their first word is going to be ‘valetudinarian’, it will help their future understanding and learning.
That’s why I didn’t make any particular effort with the language for the stories I wrote. I believe they are understandable, but I didn’t simplify the language neither on The Blue Giant nor on The Branch Witch. Especially in picture books, children are able to get the meaning by context as well as the drawings, and isn’t that how we learn vocabulary?
Cultivate their Imagination
My eldest daughter is seven years old and suffers from anxiety. It’s not disabling, luckily, but she often tells me she feels nervous at bedtime. Partly, I am sure, it’s because she doesn’t want to go to bed, but there are also the everyday things that make her uncomfortable and that need addressed. Sometimes, holding her hand and telling her she is safe is not enough.
So I walk her through a form of visualization. It always involve unicorns, by the way. I help her make up stories in her head and it seems to calm her down. I can’t say this would work for every child, but it works for mine.
Children’s books can make an impact in young boys and girls and how they develop, how they relate to others and to their environment but, mostly, there is no better time with my kids than that moment the four of us pile on the armchair and read a story together.
And if you’re looking for the next book to read to your kids, don’t forget you can get your copy of both Maven’s and Perry’s adventures here.